A close friend of Pope Francis and world-famous Argentine silversmith has shared what it takes to maintain a one-of-a-kind friendship with the Holy Father.
World-renowned Argentine silversmith, Adrian Pallarols, whom Father Jorge Bergoglio married and whose daughter, Francesca, he baptized, was personally sought out by the Pope to design and create the trophy to be presented to the winner of Monday's Interreligious Match for the Peace in Rome's Olympic Stadium.
Their bond started more than ten years ago when they created a chalice which they would both later present to Pope Benedict XVI in Rome. From there, they collaborated on various projects, and a deep friendship would grow.
In April, Pope Francis described Pallarols to ZENIT as close as a "son, friend, and brother." The friend confirmed that Father Jorge had always said this about their profound friendship, one which has followed them from Buenos Aires to the Eternal City.
In addition to being popular throughout Buenos Aires where he is seen with international celebrities, St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York has also commissioned Pallarols' work and values his collaboration and participation on various projects.
In this interview with ZENIT, one can see that not even a conclave and thousands of miles can lessen the strength of true friendship.
With proceeds to be donated to charity, the Sept. 1 evening Interreligious Match for Peace involved the participation of world level players and coaches such as Gianluigi Buffon, Zinedine Zidane, Javier Zanetti, Roberto Baggio, Andrea Pirlo, Yuto Nagatomo and Samuel Eto'o.
All the event’s proceeds were donated to “Scholas Occurrentes” and to the P.U.P.I. Foundation. Supported by Pope Francis through the Pontifical Council for Sciences, "Scholas Occurrentes" is an educational organization that uses technology, art and sport to promote social integration and the culture of encounter.
ZENIT: Could you describe the way in which the idea that you would create the trophy for this event came to be? Was it proposed to you?
Pallarols: It’s not really been proposed to me … Well, it was and it wasn’t. When Scholas Occurentes [one of the sponsoring organizations] and Pope Francis were talking about this, they said, “Well, we will need a trophy,” so Francis, himself said, “I’ve got the right person for this, please contact Adrian … He’s been helping me for some ten years on all these matters,” so “contact him.”
So that is what they did. I was in New York, working for Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, for the next chalice we are preparing for the next pre-dedication in Manhattan.
So I started drawing there. I sent them a sketch by mail and the first one was approved and so when I got back to home, I started working in my workshop.
ZENIT: You have a close relationship with Pope Francis. Can you speak about this friendship?
Pallarols: Yes, I can talk more about the man behind the “religious” guy, because ... well … we’ve been connected many, many years, as a family. I used to just go to the archbishop [when Francis was archbishop of Buenos Aires] and say, “Father, are you busy?” and he’d say, “No, I’m not … Come over, I give you a hug, and you’ll sleep.”
So, as a friend, usually every week, or every two weeks, or whatever, he used to call, and I’d call back. We’ve been in touch as friends, as men, who share a little family.
ZENIT: Can you describe the trophy that will be awarded to the winning team of tonight’s match?
Pallarols: When they asked me to do the trophy, you know, for this game in the Olympic Stadium of Rome, I said well, I need to decide how ….because I don’t know [if it’s appropriate] to have a regular trophy for a match with such a social theme. It has to be more the idea about what Francis is trying to tell the people. So I started searching and I found Francis putting an olive tree in the earth, planting the olive tree.
So I said this is it. This is going to be the image. By the way, in the Bible, Noah receives from a pigeon a piece of the olive tree in its mouth. Also, if you notice, when Jesus went to pray at the Mount of Olives or when he was received in Jerusalem, always there was an olive tree, an olive plant, or some part.
We can see this piece, the trophy, represents the welcome, friendship, the brotherhood.
I went to a plant store where I bought one [an olive plant], where I bought a nice one for me. I then started to create, recreate, it from nature. But to me, it’s the best inspiration. Nature is the best. This little piece of silver with 24 olives, almost 80 leaves, and this is what is you see on the piece, on the trophy.
I decided that was the image, and not just the message of Francis, the message itself, of this match about accepting each other and each other’s differences. It could be the icon of this project which is going to be like an itinerary, it's going to be repeated in different cities. In what way, I don’t know, but I know it will be.
ZENIT: This afternoon, many of the players were here with their families? You alluded to your daughter earlier. Is there a way that she, though not here, got to partake in the event prior to your heading to Rome?
Pallarols: When I was leaving home, I realized that if I don’t do something now, take a picture of this, of her with the trophy, perhaps in a year she won’t remember. So I said, “Come over here, let’s take a picture."
“About what", she said.</p>
I said, “About this. You will remember in time.”
So I have a very nice picture with my daughter Francesca, taken almost in front of our door, before she went to school.
ZENIT: Could you speak about your encounter with Pope Francis today during the audience where he received the players, especially considering you were the first one to share a moment with him on the stage, prior to him receiving anyone else?
Pallarols: Well, besides the images, probably what everyone saw in the audience, I felt so, so proud and loved by him, because besides the organizers, especially PUPI, specifically Zanetti, who really owns the tournament, he is the one who proposed the idea. He [Francis] says and makes understood somehow: “It’s my son here. I want to see him first.”
So as anyone in the audience was able to see, as you saw, I was introduced first, I went up the stairs and said hello and we hugged. After that, we exchanged some words, he explained some of what would be happening.
Then, there was a goodbye. And then, when he came with all the best soccer players of the world who were all gathered here, he came over to where I was and came over next to me to have the last picture taken.
ZENIT: Is there anything else that transpired between the two of you, that those, even watching from the front rows, may not have realized or seen?
Pallarols: What you didn’t see from the front was that he took me over by the arm, very strongly, and said, “Is this necessary that I’ve got to be next to you,” doing it as a joke, but he did it very warmly, giving me a hug.
It’s something I will treasure, a memory I will treasure, for years.
On the NET:
Interreligious Match for Peace: www.matchforpeace.org
Adrian Pallarols’ Official Site: www.adrianpallarols.com